William Howard Russell
William Howard Russell was an Irish reporter with The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

, and is considered to have been one of the first modern war correspondent
War correspondent
A war correspondent is a journalist who covers stories firsthand from a war zone. In the 19th century they were also called Special Correspondents.-Methods:...

s, after he spent 22 months covering the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

 including the Charge of the Light Brigade
Charge of the Light Brigade
The Charge of the Light Brigade was a charge of British cavalry led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854 in the Crimean War. The charge was the result of a miscommunication in such a way that the brigade attempted a much more difficult objective...



As a young reporter, Russell reported on a brief military conflict between Prussian and Danish troops in Denmark in 1850.

Initially sent by editor John Delane to Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 to cover English support for Russia in 1854, Russell despised the term "war correspondent" - though his coverage of the conflict brought him international renown, and Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale OM, RRC was a celebrated English nurse, writer and statistician. She came to prominence for her pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War, where she tended to wounded soldiers. She was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp" after her habit of making rounds at night...

 later credited her entry into wartime nursing to his reports. The Crimean medical care, shelter and protection of all ranks by Mary Seacole was also publicised by Russell and by other contemporary journalists, rescuing her from bankruptcy.

Russell was described by one of the soldiers on the frontlines thus, "a vulgar low Irishman, [who] sings a good song, drinks anyone's brandy and water and smokes as many cigars as a Jolly Good Fellow. He is just the sort of chap to get information, particularly out of youngsters." This reputation led to Russell being blacklist
A blacklist is a list or register of entities who, for one reason or another, are being denied a particular privilege, service, mobility, access or recognition. As a verb, to blacklist can mean to deny someone work in a particular field, or to ostracize a person from a certain social circle...

ed from some circles, including British commander Lord Raglan
FitzRoy Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan
Field Marshal FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan, GCB, PC , known before 1852 as Lord FitzRoy Somerset, was a British soldier.-Early life:...

 who advised his officers to refuse to speak with the reporter.

His dispatches were hugely significant: for the first time the public could read about the reality of warfare. Shocked and outraged, the public's backlash from his reports led the Government to re-evaluate the treatment of troops and led to Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale OM, RRC was a celebrated English nurse, writer and statistician. She came to prominence for her pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War, where she tended to wounded soldiers. She was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp" after her habit of making rounds at night...

's involvement in revolutionising battlefield treatment
Battlefield medicine
Battlefield medicine, also called field surgery and later combat casualty care, is the treatment of wounded soldiers in or near an area of combat. Civilian medicine has been greatly advanced by procedures that were first developed to treat the wounds inflicted during combat...


On September 20, 1854, Russell covered the battle above the Alma River
Alma River (Ukraine)
The Alma is a small river in Crimea that flows into the Black Sea. Its mouth is located half-way between Yevpatoria and Sevastopol. Alma is the Crimean Tatar word for an "apple". Near the Alma river the allied British, French, and Ottoman armies defeated the Russians under Prince Aleksandr...

 - writing his missive the following day in an account book seized from a Russian corpse. The story, written in the form of a letter to Delane, was supportive of the British troops though paid particular attention to the battlefield surgeons' "humane barbarity" and the lack of ambulance care for wounded troops. He later covered the Siege of Sevastopol where he coined the phrase "thin red line" in referring to British troops, writing that "[The Russians] dash on towards that thin red streak topped with a line of steel..." Following Russell's reports of the appalling conditions suffered by the Allied troops conducting the siege, including an outbreak of cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

, Samuel Morton Peto
Samuel Morton Peto
Sir Samuel Morton Peto, 1st Baronet was an English entrepreneur and civil engineer in the 19th century. A partner in Grissell and Peto, he managed construction firms that built many major buildings and monuments in London...

 and his partners built the Grand Crimean Central Railway
Grand Crimean Central Railway
The Grand Crimean Central Railway was built in 1855 during the Crimean War. Its purpose was to supply ammunition and provisions to Allied soldiers engaged in the siege of Sevastopol who were stationed on a plateau between Balaclava and Sevastopol...

, which was a major factor leading to the success of the siege.

He spent December 1854 in Constantinople on holiday, returning in early 1855. Russell left Crimea in December 1855 to be replaced by the Constantinople correspondent of The Times.
In 1856 Russell was sent to Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 to describe the coronation of Tsar Alexander II
Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II , also known as Alexander the Liberator was the Emperor of the Russian Empire from 3 March 1855 until his assassination in 1881...

 and in the following year was sent to India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 where he witnessed the final re-capture of Lucknow
Lucknow is the capital city of Uttar Pradesh in India. Lucknow is the administrative headquarters of Lucknow District and Lucknow Division....


In 1861 Russell went to Washington
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

. He later published diaries of his time in India, the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 and the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

, where he describes the warm welcome given him by English-speaking Prussian generals such as Leonhard Graf von Blumenthal
Leonhard Graf von Blumenthal
Leonhard Graf von Blumenthal was a Prussian Generalfeldmarschall. He was a member of the von Blumenthal family.-Biography:Blumenthal was born in Schwedt, Brandenburg on July 20, 1810...

. Russell returned to England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 in 1863. In July 1865 Russell sailed on the Great Eastern
SS Great Eastern
SS Great Eastern was an iron sailing steam ship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and built by J. Scott Russell & Co. at Millwall on the River Thames, London. She was by far the largest ship ever built at the time of her 1858 launch, and had the capacity to carry 4,000 passengers around the...

 to document the laying of the Atlantic Cable
Transatlantic telegraph cable
The transatlantic telegraph cable was the first cable used for telegraph communications laid across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. It crossed from , Foilhommerum Bay, Valentia Island, in western Ireland to Heart's Content in eastern Newfoundland. The transatlantic cable connected North America...

 and wrote a book about the voyage with color illustrations by Robert Dudley.

He was awarded the title of Commander of the Royal Victorian Order
Royal Victorian Order
The Royal Victorian Order is a dynastic order of knighthood and a house order of chivalry recognising distinguished personal service to the order's Sovereign, the reigning monarch of the Commonwealth realms, any members of her family, or any of her viceroys...

 by King Edward VII, who reportedly told Russell "Don't kneel Billy, just stoop" during the ceremony. Russell later accused fellow war correspondent Nicholas Woods of the Morning Herald
Morning Herald
The Morning Herald was an early daily newspaper in the United Kingdom.The newspaper was founded in 1780 by the Reverend Sir Henry Bate Dudley, former editor of The Morning Post. It was initially a liberal paper aligned with the Prince of Wales, but later became aligned with the Tories...

of lying in his articles about the war, trying to improve his stories.

Later life

In the 1868 General Election Russell ran unsuccessfully as a Conservative
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 candidate for the borough of Chelsea
Chelsea (UK Parliament constituency)
Chelsea was a borough constituency, represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.The constituency was created by the Reform Act 1867 for the 1868 general election, when it returned two Members of Parliament , elected by the bloc vote system of election.Under the...


He retired as a battlefield correspondent in 1882 and founded the Army and Navy Gazette.

Russell was knighted in May 1895.

Russell died in 1907 and is buried in Brompton Cemetery
Brompton Cemetery
Brompton Cemetery is located near Earl's Court in South West London, England . It is managed by The Royal Parks and is one of the Magnificent Seven...

, London.

Personal life

He married twice. His first marriage was to Mary Burrows, of Irish origin. After her death in 1867, he married Countess Antoinette Malvezzi, an Italian. They remained married until his death.


Russell's dispatches via telegraph from the Crimea remain as his legacy, for the first time he brought the realities of war home to readers. This helped to diminish the distance between the home front and remote battle fields.

Russell's war reporting (often in semi-verbatim form) features prominently in Northern Irish poet Ciarán Carson
Ciaran Carson
Ciaran Gerard Carson is a Belfast, Northern Ireland-born poet and novelist.-Early years:Ciaran Carson was born in Belfast into an Irish-speaking family...

's reconstruction of the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

 in Breaking News (2003).

External links

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